Saturday, 31 July 2010

Saturday Thoughts . . .

I was sitting here thinking yesterday (I do that a lot, that's why not much ever gets done around here!) and the thought occurred to me that . . . God is who He is because He knows EVERYTHING! All seeing, all knowing, everywhere at once . . . it's pretty amazing stuff, and awesome to think about, and perhaps a bit scary at the same time, coz He knows exactly how many times I put my hand into that cookie jar . . . there's no fooling Him . . .

One of the most beautiful things that I love about the Gospel is that everything we learn, every experience that we have, all that we see and do . . . we take with us into the future, and we can use what we have leearned . . . again and again. No bit of knowledge ever goes wasted.

Just think . . . everything you are learning now . . . everything you are living through, both the good and the bad . . . all that you are watching and observing and acting upon . . . these things are all helping to prepare you for something else!!

Each day we take with us some little gem that may come in handy in the future, or maybe even lots of little gems. What a fabulous concept, and what a wonderful gift from a loving Heavenly Father!!! I am so very grateful for all that He teaches me, each and every day of my life and for all the experiences that I have had . . . both the good and the bad . . . they both help and strengthen me in a very beautiful way.

"Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."
D&C 88:118

Just my thoughts on this gloomy, dull Saturday morning . . .

It looks like we are in for another week of dull, showery weather as well! I had popped in to town yesterday morning to pick up a few things and when I came out of the shops it was just bucketing down! Of course I had forgotten my umbrella! I often do. It's just something else I have to carry . . . but I sure regretted being lazy about that yesterday! Lesson learnt!

I cooked Todd some delicious pork chops for his supper yesterday. He really enjoyed these and had two of them himself! This tasty rub is both sweet and spicy at the same time . . . very, very good if I don't say so myself!!

*Cocoa Rubbed Pork Chops*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A slightly sweet and spicy cocoa rub meets the natural savory, smoky taste of pork to create a wonderful taste sensation. A simple pan sear is all these chops need to be ready for the dinner table. Moist and flavourful these tasty chops are sure to become a firm family favourite!!

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon of mild chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops, 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine the brown sugar, onion powder, cocoa powder, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Rub the mixture evenly over pork chops, rubbing it in well.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork chops and cook 4 to 5 minutes per side, until no longer pink. Serve warm. Delicious!!

There are some Little Ginger Cheesecakes waiting for you over at The English Kitchen this morning!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Once You're Round the Bend

Something unexpected may be around the bend.
Something to encourage you, a lift, a gift, a friend . . .
Something that will strengthen you to face the road ahead . . .
Spurring you along the pathway that you tread.
Do not halt or waver. Go forward. Keep straight on.
Even if the reason for confidence has gone . . .
Just go on believing that things are on the mend.
Life may look quite different,
Once you're round the bend.
~Patience Strong

Todd and spent most of yesterday moving things around the house. We bought ourselves a new laptop the other day, and somehow that precipitated moving everything around. It's funny how that goes.

Being unable to check my e-mails or go online the whole time we were in Canada was a bit of a pain. I came back to an e-mail box stogged full of over a thousand e-mails that I then had to sort through before I could do anything else. There were important things in there that may have been a problem had I not been able to address them any sooner. We decided that having a laptop would be the answer. It just made sense. That way we can carry it with us the next time we have to go away, and always be connected to our e-mails . . . so anyways, we got a laptop, to make a long story short.

Having the laptop now, we decided (read "I" here) that we didn't need to have the old desktop in the living room anymore. It did take up a lot of space and moving it somewhere else would make the living room look a lot more spacious. Moving the desktop up to the craft room would solve that problem.

In order to make space in the craft room, we needed to bring out the drop front desk which was in there. The only place to put that was downstairs . . . (you see where I am going with this don't you . . . )

We then had to move all the furniture around in the living room in order to accommodate the desk, and in order to create an attractive living space.

It took the whole of yesterday and looks really lovely the way we've positioned everything . . . but now . . . I want to paint the fireplace surround, and get rid of that gaudy wall paper that is hanging there. I also want to take down the cream coloured curtains that are there and rehang my Burgundy Floral ones in their place . . . and I picked up a lovely large mirror to hang over the fireplace . . . so that it doesn't look so busy. That means that all the family pictures which we have hanging there will have to find a new home, but don't worry . . . I know just the place to put them!

and to think . . .

It all started with buying a laptop. (I'm so glad that I have a patient and loving husband!)

As often happens when I am doing things, I got distracted for a few minutes yesterday and started going through my old blue binder. I came across this old treasure that I had not made in a long time and so I decided to make it for our supper last night. This was the old fashioned way of making macaroni and cheese. Simple, tasty and always welcome. I'll try to put it down so that you can understand it, as the original recipe is written only as a guideline of what to do, exact amounts having been left out . . . you know how it goes, much knowledge was taken for granted back then, it was expected that a girl would know these things off by heart . . .

*Old Fashioned Escalloped Macaroni and Cheese*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is not like regular macaroni and cheese with a super rich thick sauce, this is old fashioned in both it's taste and it's appearance. It is good, plain and simple . . . every forkful taking you back to a simpler day and time. The leftovers are very good heated up the next day, and if anything it tastes even better! A lot of old recipes are like that!

1/2 pound of dry macaroni
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup of cream
a knob of butter the size of a walnut
8 ounces of cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
(Yesterday I used a mixture of medium cheddar and red Leicester cheeses for colour)
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs
another knob of butter, melted

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil and add the macaroni. Cook according to the package directions and then drain well. Rinse in cold water and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/gas mark 4. Butter a 1 litre casserole dish and set aside.

Put the cream, milk and the first knob of butter into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, heating only until the butter melts. Put the cooked macaroni into the prepared baking dish. Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Pour the milk mixture over top. You should just barely be able to see the milk through the macaroni. Mix the fresh bread crumbs with the melted butter and then sprinkle them evenly over top.

Bake in the heated oven until bubbly and browned and the cheese is meltingly gooey. Delicious!!

Over on The English Kitchen today, a delicious Beetroot Summer Salad Bowl!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What I did on my Summer Holidays Part Two

Thanks so much for all of your lovely comments from yesterday! We did really enjoy that part of our holiday. It was so lovely to see my two sons and all of my grandsons. The time really did pass far too quickly, but then again . . . it usually does when you are having fun!!

The rest of our holiday we basically just spent time with my mom, doing little things that she needed doing, talking . . . loving. Most days we did walk into town though for some exercise. It's a really beautiful walk and, despite the heat and humidity, we both really enjoyed our cosy walks together.

(We all look very shiny and hot in all the pictures. It was very hot and humid in Nova Scotia the whole time we were there!! Very sticky and uncomfortable, and not condusive to great pictures!)

One weekend, my daughter Eileen came to spend a couple of days with us. It was so much fun to have here there at my mom's. She is such a sweet gal, and so much fun. I can announce here today that she and her boyfriend Tim are now engaged! Yes, Tim popped the question to her father and her father said yes, in two years time they can be married. Now comes the fun of picking out a ring and everthing else that goes along with it. You can be sure that I will be going home for that wedding! It's been a long time coming. She and Tim have been together for about 8 years now! The only concern is that Tim has never lived on his own yet. He has always lived with his parents. Eileen, on the other hand, had her own apartment for a couple of years and did very well. Nevermind . . . these things always have a way of working themselves out, don't they!

One thing that I was really excited about was that my baby, Bruce, had some summer leave while I was there and so came down to Nova Scotia from Ontario where he is doing his latest course with the Canadian Airforce and I was able to spend some time with him as well. That was an added surprise and bonus as I had not thought I would be able to see him. He seemed very grown up, but I guess the Military makes men out of boys do they not? A boy no longer, he has become a very confident and handsome young man. I know I am his mum and am a bit prejudiced, but that is a mum's prerogative!!

We also had a few days out. One day my good friend Elly and her husband Jim came to see us from Fall River. I have known Elly for a number of years. We first met on, which used to be ( I don't think I'll ever really get used to calling it!) Then we got to meet in person when she came over to visit her brother who lived not too far from us down in Kent. The last time we were home to Nova Scotia, she and Jim came down and spent a day with us, and we had a lovely time together and this time we did the same thing. We also got to meet another couple, also friends on, Diana and her husband Bill. Diana lives in the town that my mom grew up in, Lawrencetown and the six of us had a lovely meal there in the Lawrencetown Restaurant, formerly known as the Lawrencetown Fireman's Restaurant. Todd got to have his much loved Liver, Bacon and Onions, something which I never cook him as I can't stand the smell of liver cooking!! I had a Hot Turkey Sandwich, something which I have always loved to eat there! (You can't teach an old dog new tricks!) We also shared a hefty piece of that Coconut Cream Pie I showed you the other day. All in all we had a lovely time with these fabulous people and not just because of the food! They are all pretty special folks!

Another night we took my mum and Eileen out to supper. It was my mum's 78th birthday on the 9th of July and we thought it only fitting that we treat her to a meal out. We went to the Big Scoop, which is an old family favourite and we each had our favourite meals and then we shifted back home to eat carrot cake, which is my mum's favourite dessert! There were a lot of people celebrating their birthday's in the Big Scoop that night, including one lady who was celebrating her 95th. Mom still has a long way to go to catch up with her!

My cousin Geralyn and her husband, Dave, took us out one Saturday on a long drive down to Brier Island. Brier Island is a rugged place, a real treat to visit and home to an industrious seafaring people. There is an amazing variety of flora and fauna there and some of the most incredible sunsets you will ever see. It stands at the most Western Point of Nova Scotia, and you have to take not one, but two ferries to get there. On the first Island, called Long Island, we stopped at a restaurant, right by the ferry, to have lunch. It was called Lavinia's. We had the most delicious Haddock there that any of us had ever tasted. Simply pan fried and served up with lovely mash and a variety of vegetables. I think we all ooohed and aaahed over this one!

We had a fabulous day together exploring the craggy cliffs of Brier Island. The Lighthouses, the flowers, the birds . . . On one spot the rocks are covered with little miniature Inuk Shuks that people have created from the stones that lay about. Simply beautiful . . . You can also hire out on a Whale Watching Excursion and we saw a few of the boats going out that day to see what they could find. My cousin Sherri had gone just the weekend before. We didn't go as it is very expensive and not within our budget, besides I get very sea sick and I didn't fancy that experience! Eileen went the last week we were home and she was very sick on the boat, poor girl!

Another day we went out with Geralyn and Dave to a Chinese buffet lunch and then for a long drive along the back highways and byways of the Valley. Todd really enjoyed seeing all of it's rustic beauty. We also stopped in Berwick for a delicious ice cream cone, which was fabulous indeed! Geralyn and Dave are such wonderful friends and I am so blessed to call them family as well. We have great plans for the next time we are over to Canada, because once again, the time went far too quickly and we just didn't have enough days to do what we would have liked to do together!

Our last night there we were invited to an old friend of mine, Mabel and her husband Rick's home for supper. It was a wonderful time to catch up on old memories and reaquaint ourselves with each other. We have shared so very many happy times together and our children have always been very close as well. Todd really enjoyed getting to know them better. They have a beautiful home, not the least because of their warmth and welcoming natures. Rick had cooked us a beautiful meal of Salmon, which he had marinated all day and then roasted on the Barbeque on a Cedar Plank. My but it was delicious as was the dessert of fresh Nova Scotia Berries, cake and ice cream. We really enjoyed our time with them and are hoping that they will be able to come over here to the UK at some point so we can treat them UK Style! I can't believe that I didn't get any pictures of us together!

The next day we began the long journey home. Mum and Uncle Harold took us to the airport. Uncle Harold always drives us to the airport when it's time to go home. It has become kind of a tradition for us and we do enjoy spending this special time with him and Mum. It's always hard to say goodbye at the end of our stay, and I know it's especially hard for Mum, so it helps for her to have this kind brother in law of hers around to soften it somewhat. He's always been her favourite Brother In Law.

We landed at Gatwick Airport very early Friday morning and had booked in to stay at our London Temple Friday evening. What a peaceful and special way to begin the end of our holiday. We spent most of Friday sleeping and walking the grounds. I just love the Temple and it is a real blessing to be able to actually stay there and immerse oneself in the special spirit that rests there.

We visited some friends in the area, visiting our old Church Ward in Tunbridge Wells on Sunday and then began the long drive back to Chester afterwards. Of course we got caught in a huge traffic jam on the M25, due to an accident and had a two hour delay there, but we did finally get here at the end, and that was it!

Holiday over for this year. We had such a lovely time and our days were filled to overflowing with wonderful people, beautiful feelings and special experiences . . . more joy to lock into our hearts and treasure until the next time we can go to Canada again, which I hope will not be too long in coming.

Holidays are wonderful things to be sure, but it's always nice to be home again, safe and sound. Hope you all enjoyed seeing my holiday snaps!!

That Haddock was so good that we had on Long Island, I just had to recreate it here at home. I think I did a rather good job of it actually! I have written the instructions for two people, but it would be very easily multiplied.

*Simple Pan Fried Haddock*
Serves 2
Printable Recipe

Quick to cook and oh so easy and delicious. We both really enjoy this!

2 boneless, skinless haddock loins
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS flour
a knob of butter
several sprigs of fresh thyme
the juice of one lemon

Season your Haddock filets well on both sides then sprinkle with flour to coat, patting it lightly into the flesh. Set aside. Melt a knob of butter over medium high heat in a skillet until it begins to foam. Add the springs of thyme and then brown the Haddock fillets, starting with the presentation side, and then turning them after about 2 minutes. They should only take about 2 minutes per side to cook through, depending on the thickness of your fillets. After you have cooked both sides, squeeze the juice of a lemon over all and allow it to bubble up. Remove from the heat and let stand for several minutes before serving. Delicious!

And over on The English Kitchen today??? Delicious Peanutbutter, Chocolate Chip and Oat Bars!! Oh so scrummy!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

What I did on my Summer Holidays, Part 1

Well, here it is folks! The dreaded Summer Holiday synopsis . . . the post where I drag you down every highway and byway of my trip away. Somehow I don't think you'll mind overly much! (At least I hope that you won't!)

Our trip to Canada this time was more about family than it was about anything else. We took this fabulous opportunity to see as many family members as we could. We had originally planned to drive all the way up to Quebec to see my father, but the idea of doing that became financially impossible once I lost my job, so alas . . . he was the one person that we didn't see, but he promises that he is coming over here for a visit next year, so I am holding him to that promise! I did get to talk to him on the telephone almost every day whilst we were there, so that was good!

We left here the day before our flight. I was so worried about traffic jams and missing our plane that I didn't want to take any chances. I have heard all the horror stories of people sitting in traffic queues on the M25 and watching their flight leave overhead as they sat there in their hot cars . . . I did not want to experience that nightmare!!!

We stayed at a Days Inn at the Oxford Services and let me tell you, we were sorely disappointed. We had stayed at the same one just a couple months ago when we moved up here to Chester, and the price of a room since then had virtually doubled! I kid you not!! We were on the second floor and there was no elevator, nor was there any porter to help carry our cases up (which were very heavy). It was miserably hot with no fan or air conditioning. There was no soap in the rooms etc. Only a squeeze bottle on the wall of the shower indicating that it was hair/body shampoo. The highest price quoted on their poster was in the £70 range and that was for an executive room. We were charged £99 for puny room with a double bed and a telly in it. When we queried it, we were told that when they were busy, the prices went up. Todd is going to write a letter to the Ombudsman. We thought this was quite outrageous, but what could we do. We were hot, tired and needed a rest. Shame on you Days Inn!

We arrived at the airport in good time the next morning. Traffic was pretty good and there were no hiccups at all. In fact we were the first people checked into the flight!! It was an hour and a half delayed, which meant we spent a good long time at the airport, but as I am a person that loves to people watch I didn't mind it at all. I would rather be at the airport and waiting, than to be in the car and waiting on the M25, worried that I was going to miss my plane!!

The flight went very well and we landed in Halifax at about 7:30 PM that night. We were very tired as it felt like 11:30 to us and by the time we got to my mom's in the valley it was 2 hours later so we didn't spend much time talking that night, we just fell into bed and slept, slept . . . slept!!

The first couple of days were spent getting used to the time change, getting used to driving in Canada and talking my mom's ear off!! She did a fair bit of it in exchange though, so it was all good! We walked into town a few times to see my daughter at work! This is Eileen, my Olympic Champion, at work in the local Tim Horton's! She was leaving on Sunday for a church camp, so it was nice that we had the opportunity to see her before she left.

We got up very early on the Sunday morning so that we could catch the 7 am ferry from Digby, Nova Scotia, to Saint John, New Brunswick. The ferry travels daily from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick on a 3 hour journey across the Bay of Fundy. It was a very smooth crossing this time, so nobody felt sea sick, but I have been on it when the seas were very rough and it was not a very pleasant journey! I don't mind taking the ferry though. It may take 3 hours, but it cuts out a lot of the drive that you have to do when you drive all the way around, and with my bone problem that meant a lot to me! In less than two hours off the ferry we were in Fredericton, our first port of call!

It was so nice to see my son Anthony and his lovely wife Anne, and of course my two lovely grandsons, Gabriel and Luke. I had seen Gabriel before, the last time I was home, when he was only 18 months old. He is 4 1/2 now and very much a little boy! Luke, though, was only born this past January, so he was the first *BABY* grandchild that I was able to see!! So adorable and sweet! I adored every minute of the time I spent with them. They are such a lovely little family and were so good to us. That first night Anthony had cooked a special Cassoulet for us. My son is like me, he just loves to cook! It was delicious and I was so touched by his efforts.

We spent 3 days in Fredericton. It didn't take long for Gabriel to christen Todd . . . get this . . . "GranTodd!" He just adored Todd and those 3 days were punctuated with his little voice, excitedly heralding GranTodd with his every move. Todd thoroughly enjoyed it. He has never been able to see his own grandchildren and this meant the world to him!

On the Tuesday, my brother David drove down from Ottawa, along with his wife and four daughters! It was so nice to see them all again! I had not seen my nieces and sister in law for about 7 years, it had been about five since I had seen my brother. This was Todd's first time meeting my sister in law Christine and meeting all the girls, so it was very special indeed. It was my niece Allison's birthday that day and my mother's a few days later, so we took the opportunity to share a feast of Chinese takeaway and for dessert a special Dairy Queen Ice Cream Birthday cake to celebrate everyone's birthday! Gabriel was especially taken with the cake part and both the boys really enjoyed the girls. They are the nicest children. I know they must have their bad moments, and there are probably times my brother wants to tear his hair out with having a housefull of nothing but hormonal girls and women, but for that day they were splendid. Later that evening we spent another hour back at the hotel (we were all staying at the same place) talking together. My brother was off to Quebec to stay with my dad early the next morning. I did appreciate so very much his efforts to make a detour down to Fredericton just to see us. It meant the world to each of us.

On the Wednesday we travelled from Fredericton down to Moncton to see my middle son Douglas, his wife Kayla and their two boys, Jonathan and Joshua. I had not seen Doug since his and Kayla's wedding 5 years ago, and I had not ever seen their two boys at all. Jon is 4 and Joshua is 1 1/2. They were beautiful little boys and a bit shy with us, it being the first time we met and all. I know every grandmother thinks that their grandchildren are the best, and I am no exception. Jon was so sweet and gentle and you could tell he really loves his baby brother very much, and Josh, well . . . with that red hair and those pretty blue eyes, he just captured my heart. He was very shy, but I did get a few smiles around the back of the sofa from him. Another beautiful little family . . . and it was so good to see my son. Kayla had just had a scan that day and we were told that the new baby that they are expecting the end of November is also a boy! Looks like there will be no grand-daughters just yet!! I would so have loved to have been able to spend more time with them all, but we had a ferry to catch back to Nova Scotia that evening.

Our time with them went far too quickly and we were back on the road again to catch the 11PM boat back to Nova Scotia. We landed back at my mom's about 2:30 in the morning. It was very foggy on our drive back up the valley from Digby and I could hardly see, but I did it! I was so impressed with myself! I think that's allowed!!

I won't bore you with much more today! I know how these holiday tales can be and the holiday snaps. I'll continue tomorrow with some more.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a delicious recipe for a tasty coleslaw. We had this the other night along with our burgers and it went down a real treat. I don't normally use mustard and cucumber in my coleslaw and found it to be a really tasty addition! I used low low fat mayo and it worked out very well. This was delicious!

*Creamy Coleslaw*
Serves 8 to 10
Printable Recipe

A delciously cream coleslaw that has just the right amount of crunch and flavour! There is no sogginess here!!

10 ounces of white cabbage, trimmed, cored and very thinly cut
(about 1/2 of a medium cabbage)
5 ounces of carrots, peeled, trimmed and juilienned
(1 medium carrot)
4 inches of an English Cucumber, trimmed, seeded and cut into small dice
(Do not peel)
2 - 3 large dessertspoons of good quality mayonnaise
1 TBS of Dijon mustard
2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp celery salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp onion powder

Place the vegetables into a large bowl. Whisk together the mustard, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, sugar, celery salt, black pepper and onion powder. Mix well. Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.

Note - the amount of mayonnaise you use depends on the cabbage, some cabbages take more mayonnaise than others. It also depends on how creamy you like your coleslaw!

And over on The English Kitchen today, there is a delicious Summer Fruit Salad!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY, July 27th, 2010...

Outside My Window...

It is dull and gloomy looking, but it is home and I am glad to be back! Our garden did very well when we were away, except that something has totally eaten the cabbages to bits. I have little gem lettuces that I need to pick now, and lots of beetroot to pull and eat. Also beans to pick. I just love this time of year!

I am thinking...
It was ever so lovely to see my family and Canadian friends, but it's also ever so lovely to be back home where I belong. Be it ever so humble and all that . . .

I am thankful for...
That my Heavenly Father watched over us whilst we were away and that we travelled in safety and without incident. I was the main driver. I drove us all the way over to New Brunswick and back. Fredericton was a bit scary as a lot had changed in the 11 years since I had been there, but I did ok! Now I need to drive more over here!

From the kitchen...
There is not a heck of a lot as I basically just got home on Sunday evening and then I didn't sleep all Sunday night thinking about my scan. Yesterday I was too tired to do much. Hopefully I will be feeling more like my old self again today! (Although I do have a smear test to endure later on this morning. ugh . . . ) I have been thinking though that I may move all my recipes over to The English Kitchen though and leave Oak Cottage just for my ramblings . . . any thoughts on that? I would love to have your feedback. Pretty please with sugar on it. ☺

I am wearing...
Pink pajamas with wooly sheep on them! Baaaa!!!

I am creating...
I did a ton of sketches whilst I was away and have lots in the pipeline! It felt so good to put my pencil to paper again and create. I also have the Primary Presentation for this year to work on and a few other odds and sodds!

I am going...
Grrr . . . pap smear today. I hate them. Necessary evil I know, but that doesn't make them any more bearable. Other than that I have no firm plans for the week. It feels good!

I am reading...

The Confession of Katherine Howard, by Suzannah Dunn

Eighteen-year-old Catherine Howard thought she could have it all: a King, and a lover! Lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's new German wife, it wasn't long before a teenage Catherine caught the King's eye. Pretty, lively and young, he swiftly made her his queen. Catherine found herself showered with riches and at the centre of a lavish court life. Dizzy with the power she suddenly possessed, she failed to realise the political realities of her life. Just over a year into her marriage, during a special service at which Henry was giving thanks to God for his wonderful wife, Archbishop Cranmer passed the King a letter, listing allegations against Catherine before she became queen. Henry asked the archbishop to investigate; he was never to see his young wife again. Told twenty years on from the perspective of Catherine's close friend, Cat Tilney, the novel tells the life of this damaged, dangerous and short-lived queen. Suzannah Dunn presents us with a feisty, determined Catherine, who refused to allow men to walk over her . . . even if they do happen to be the King of England.

I picked this novel up at the airport on my way over to Canada and am only now just getting in to it. Todd got a hold of it first and monopolized it most of the time we were away!! He loved it and I am also loving it! It's a crackin' good read!

I am hoping...
That I can get done all the things that I want to get done this week! I have so much that I want to do and it's all a jumble in my mind at the moment. I need to sit down and organize myself I think!

I am hearing...
Birds singing in the garden . . . the fridge humming in the kitchen. Rain softly falling. The quiet hum of the computer and my fingers tap, tap, tapping on the keys. Ahh . . . home, sweet home . . .

Around the house...
I have a drying rack full of drying wash waiting to be ironed and more wash to put in. I also have to do a general tidy up. Although I did leave things pretty tidy before we left, I have messed it up a bit in my unpacking and I need to finish putting things away. Sigh . . . I'm so lazy!

One of my favorite things...
Is communicating with all of you each day. I so missed this when I was away. Is that sad??? I hope not! I just love being able to put my thoughts down here of a morning. It helps bring balance to my day. It helps to keep me centred and I love all the feedback that I get from you, my sweet invisible friends!!! Life is just not the same without you in it!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Not an awful lot and that's good, except for the dreaded smear test today. double ugh . . . Our Home Teachers are coming on Thursday evening and it will be nice to see them. We must go to visit out good friend Doreen and let her know we are back and I want to pop in to Chester and pick up a few bits. Other than that I hope to dig out my paints and brushes and get stuck in to painting! I can't wait to show you what I've done!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

This is "GranTodd" (as my grandson Gabriel named him) getting ready to ride the lion along with "Socker Monkey" (the name that Gabriel christened his Sock Monkey with). He sure looks like he is having a grand time doesn't he! We both had a grand time actually. It was so nice to see them all and I will soon do a post and share all of my holiday snaps! A lot of them didn't turn out, which is disappointing. I 'spect it was the humidity or something, but they are quite blurry, or maybe I was just overly excited to be there! I did get some good ones though, which capture some really special memories. Look for them real soon!

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

"Dare to be wise; begin!! He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses."

And there you have it . . . my day book for the first week in June. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!)

I had the most delicious coconut cream pie for lunch one day whilst we were away. We had gone to the Lawrencetown Restaurant for a nice lunch together with friends and of course none of us could resist dessert. All homemade pies and cakes!! I just had to have the coconut cream. This is a picture of that pie, but this is my own recipe for the pie! I did not get theirs, but I can assure you mine is just as delicious if not more so! ( A girl is allowed to brag once in a while surely!!!)

*Coconut Cream Pie*
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

A delicious dessert that will have everyone scrambling for just one more slice . . . please!

1 (14 ounce) can of full fat coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites (you can freeze the other two for another time)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
toasted coconut (optional)

one 9 inch fully baked pie crust

Put the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/3 cup of the sugar and the salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally.

Whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and the cornstarch until well mixed, then whisk in the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in about 1 cup of the simmering coconut milk mixture to temper, and then slowly whisk the tempered mixture back into the rest of the simmering coconut milk mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, whisking constantly and vigorously until the mixture is thickened and a few bubbles burst on the surface. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and the vanilla. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm, stirring it about every five minutes or so.

Once cooled to lukewarm, pour the filling into the baked pie crust.

In the meantime whisk the egg whites for the meringue together with the cream of tartar and the salt, using an electric whisk until the mixture begins to show soft peaks. Continue to whisk, slowly adding the sugar, whisking it until the meringue is holding stiff peaks and is glossy. Spread and mound this mixture on top of your coconut filling.

Preheat the oven to 350*F/180*C/gas mark 4. Place the filled and topped pie onto a baking sheet. (If you are using toasted coconut to top, now is the time to sprinkle it over top of the meringue) Slide it into the oven and bake until the meringue is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before serving.

Use a sharp wet knife to cut into wedges for serving. Delicious!!

Over on The English Kitchen this morning, last night's supper. Steak Burgers with Stilton and Ale! Scrummy!

My, but it's good to be back! ☺

Monday, 26 July 2010

I'm Back!!

Hello everyone! I am back safe and sound from my holidays. Over the past month. I have travelled several thousand miles by plane, car, ferry and on foot! I’ve gotten to spend quality time with my family . . . Mom, Brother, Sister in Law, Nieces, three Sons, one Daughter, four Grandsons, two Daughter’s in Law, two cousins . . . With dear friends, both new and old . . . Sweltered under plus 30 degree temps with 99% humidity (not pleasant) . . . Seen some fabulous things, eaten some wonderful food, been to our beautiful London Temple, visited my old church in Tunbridge Wells, and sat for two hours in a traffic jam on the M25 . . . I can’t wait to vet all my pictures and share them with you.

In the meantime I have my scan today to see how far my Paget’s has progressed and umpteen bazillion things to do. I’ll be back soon though, with a nice post about my trip and some more food for the eyes, tummy and thoughts!

Oh my but it is nice to travel and visit with family and friends . . . but it's also nice to be home. ☺
There truly is no place like home!

Friday, 23 July 2010

The phrase Dog Days or the dog days of summer conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer. They are a phenomenon of the Northern Hemisphere, where they usually fall between July and early September, but the actual dates vary greatly from region to region, depending on latitude and climate. I’m not sure what the equivalent is over here in England, or even if they have one, but I know that as a child they were the hottest, most boring days of our summer holidays ...

I can remember the weather being very hot, sticky and humid, and feeling so very lazy during hot August days as a child. All the excitement of early summer days was gone, and the novelty of our summer vacation from school was largely wearing off. We’d lay around the garden, sprawled out and trying to leach some of the coolness from the grass in the shade, listening to the humming of the electrical wires and cicadas in the trees, the heat and humidity sapping all our energy and impetus. It was generally too hot by then to be bothered overly much by mosquitoes or black flies ... they’d mostly have died off, and we’d enjoy the respite, knowing all too well that they’d be back, come September.

Those were the days when, if we were really lucky, my mom and dad would take us off to the beach on a weekend afternoon, where we’d run through the sand, it’s warmth squishing up between our toes, and paddle along the water’s edge. My mother never went in the water. She’d always sit atop a towel on the sand and soak up the sun, a big sunhat on her head and her eyes shaded by sunglasses. We always got sunburnt. I cannot ever recall using sunscreen in them there days, although I do know they had it because I can remember clearly seeing the Coppertone advertisements with the little girl on them. She was wearing a pair of pretty bottoms and a dog was pulling them down and you could clearly see that her bottie was white and un-tanned, in comparison to the rest of her. Those were the days before skin cancer worries. We used to be as brown as nuts by the end of the summer.

The highlight of our day at the beach would always be the ice cream cone that we were treated to at the end of the day, before we left to go home. I can remember standing there in my little plaid skort (that was a combinationshort/skirt thing) and waiting patiently (or as patient as I could do) while my mother handed them out to us, one at a time. I always chose the rainbow flavour. It tasted oddly fruity, but not any fruit you could readily discern, and it was a combination of every colour of the rainbow. The race would then be on to try to lick and eat the ice cream before it melted and ran down your arms. It was no fun driving home in the car with sticky arms!

August was always the month of my birth as well. I can remember having a few birthday parties, but most kids were away on holidays then, and so there were never an awful lot of children there, or at least not as many as I dreamed of having. My mother has old black and white photos of us all at different times, standing in the back garden around our swing set, and others of us all around the dining table. It seemed we were all legs and gangly arms. There were usually hot dogs or dainty tea sandwiches to eat, as well as soda pop, cake and ice cream. I remember one year she made clowns out of the ice cream … the cone being the clown hats , their faces fashioned out of liquorice whips and round hard candies. I thought they were really special and magical, and … they were!

Nothing tasted better or more refreshing than ice cold cool-aid from the refrigerator on a hot summers day. We used to have metal tumblers that came in various metallic colours and shades. My favourite was the pink one and I swear to this day that cool-aid tasted much better in them than in any other glass, and it seemed cooler and more refreshing as well. Cool-aid was a summer treat we never got at any other time of the year, and my favourite flavour was the green lime flavour, although cherry was pretty good too. All artificial flavours and colours … it’s a wonder we weren’t all jumping through the roof!!! (or maybe we were!)

The milk man used to carry Popsicles in his truck and I can remember buying them for 4 cents. I loved the white ones. They tasted vaguely of vanilla and lemon. I can remember trying really hard to carefully break them apart in the middle, into two equal sticks. There was a definite technique to it, one that I never managed, as I always ended up with one half being shaped like an upside down L and the other a short stub… You could never eat them faster than they melted. There were prizes printed on the wrappers that you could win by saving them up. I always tried, but never quite managed to get enough to send away for anything andin fact,to this day, I don’t know of any of my friends that did!

August also meant corn on the cob. That was something we longingly looked forward to, the whole rest of the year ... corn season. Farmers would set their wagons up on country road corners, their children coerced into spending the first few weeks of their August days out in the hot sun flogging it to all us townies that would flock out to them in huge crowds, buying dozen after dozen of the delicious golden ears. It was always a farmer’s dozen too, which meant thirteen ears. The corn was always wonderful, fresh picked just that morning … My mom would set us to work when we got back home, in the garden at the picnic table shucking what seemed like dozens and dozens of ears. I loved feeling the silkiness of the golden tassels at the end of the cob and the sound that the husks made when you peeled them back, a sort of crackling sound that you never heard anywhere else. In the meantime my mother would be heating the water on the stove, ready to plunge the naked cobs into as soon as we brought them back in to the house.

We’d sit around the table in eager anticipation, and it would not be long before the air would be filled with the sweet aroma of boiling corn. That is all we’d have for supper on those hot summer nights, cob after cob of golden corn, covered in lashings of cold butter and oodles of salt. It was a race to see who could eat the most cobs and top the winner of the year before, our hands and faces all buttery and salty and full of corny goodness, the ends of the cobs burning our fingers in our eagerness to get stuck in … You could get fancy corn thingies that you could stick into the ends that you could hold on to, but we never bothered. They never quite worked the way they should have anyways! There was a proper way to eat corn … we’d make our way down the ears like a platen making it’s way across a typewriter bed, the only thing missing … the sound of the bell as we got to the end of the cob and hit the carriage return, starting back at the beginning … We’d eat until our bellies could hold no more and our teeth were stuck full of the little pieces of silk that got left behind, no matter how hard our fingers had tried to peel them away … if you pressed your lip up to your nose it would smell all buttery and slightly sickly, the smell of hot summer corn days …

I was thinking about all of this last night when I made our supper after work. The sweet corn over here isnot nearly as good as the sweet corn in North America, and I know that, but still, each year when I see it in the grocery store I relent and buy a few ears, hoping that it will magically have transformed itself into the golden sweet ears of my childhood. Of course it never has, but we enjoy it anyways, although now we end up having to cut the kernels off the cobs to eat it and our faces are not quite as buttery when we are done …

*Perfect Corn on the Cob with Lime Basil Butter*

Serves 8

I love sweet corn and fresh picked sweet corn on the cob is the perfect way to eat it. Accompanied with this delicious butter there is no finer meal. The tang of lime along with the peppery spice of the basil go perfectly with the sweet crunch of the corn, not to mention the underlying heat of fresh garlic. This recipe is a real winner in my books!

8 ears of sweet corn

For the Butter:

¼ cup of basil leaves, lightly packed

2 garlic cloves, peeled

½ cup butter

1 TBS fresh lime juice (roughly the juice of one small lime)

1 tsp sea salt

Pinch of sugar

First make the butter. Chop the basil fairly finely and crush the garlic. Cream the butter until quite fluffy and then cream in the basil, garlic, salt, sugar and the lime juice until it is quite smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate while you boil the corn.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding a pinch of sugar to the water. Remove the husks, silk and end from each ear of corn. Rinse in cold water and then drop the ears into the boiling water, making sure they are completely covered by the water. (Don’t salt the water as it makes the corn tough) Bring the water back to the boil. Immediately cover the kettle and turn out the heat. Let the corn stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain well and serve immediately with the chilled Basil butter. Delicious!

(Sorry for all the wonky posts. I am trying to put these in ahead of time so that you won't miss me too much while I am away, and blogger is not co-operating, not with the text, or the pictures or anything . . . but don't worry, I'll be home real soon now!)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Finding Reverence . . .

“Let knowledge grow from more to more

But more of reverence in us dwell;

That mind and soul, according well,

May make one music as before.”

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I think I was probably in my forties before I was ever able to take a holiday all on my own. My children were mostly teenagers by then and I really felt the need to go off somewhere all by myself and think for a time, sleep in . . . un-interrupted for twenty four hours if I wanted to, spend hours in contemplation without having to worry about anything or anyone else … unfortunately I couldn’t afford to go off to a special retreat or anything like that, which would have been ideal, and so instead I went off to my Sisters’ for a few days, which was just as noisy and busy a place as my own had been, but still . . . it was some else’s noise and some else’s busy mess, and not my own. A change of scene is as good as a holiday, or so they say.

There is something most beautiful about the hush of reverence that can envelope you when you go off somewhere all on your own. Reverence is an altered state of consciousness. A place of being, where you feel awe and wonder, all because you know you are in the presence of Spirit. You know the feeling well . . . it’s the very reason we all begin to speak in hushed tones when entering a cathedral or other large place of worship. It is a feeling that wraps you in perfect peace, in a place where there is no past and no future, only the beauty of the here and now of special moments when you are at one with Heaven and earth . . . your body and your soul being singular with each other.

I hadn’t realized then, that I did not need to go away to a special place to achieve this special reverence, this solitude. I didn’t know that I had the capacity to have this feeling and this rest deep within myself all along. It has been something I have only discovered now, in my later years, but something I wish I had taken the time to find when I was younger. You can achieve this sense of being whole, through meditation or quiet prayer, or it can be through the simple task of creating something beautiful . . . be it a special meal, or an act of sewing something special for yourself or someone else, picking up a brush to paint, weeding the garden, washing the dishes . . . Concentrating on one simple task, one task at a time and doing it with care and attentiveness can invoke serenity and reverence in our lives, without the need to take oneself off to a cloistered nunnery or retreat. We don’t need to run away to find peace of mind, or solitude. It can be woven into the very fabric of our daily lives.

Gratitude is indeed the portal to being able to experience more reverence in our daily lives. I once read a quote that said, “If the only prayer you say in your daily life is ‘thank you’, that would be enough.” I can’t remember who said it, but I know from experience that it’s true. The joyful life that we are meant to be living starts with the sense of reverence we can seek, find and restore to our daily lives, the sacred things that we can find in the very ordinary, as long as we go about the process of seeking with gratitude in our hearts. We can be reverent and at peace, right where we are . . . true joy and reverence really begin at home.

(no recipe today)